COSTA MESA — A longtime Newport Beach resident has donated a $2-million yacht to Orange Coast College, the largest donation of its kind to the campus.
Jerry Barto and his family gave their 92-foot luxury vessel, the Nordic Star, to the college's Professional Mariner Program to help students train for a career in the industry.
"All three of my kids went to OCC, so this was a family decision," Barto said in a prepared statement. "We wanted to help students and this great program, so it was an easy decision to make."
Barto, who couldn't be reached for comment, founded Signal Hill Petroleum with his son Craig, according to media reports. Signal Hill visitors can find "Tribute to the Roughnecks," a bronze-cast sculpture of Barto installing pipes into an oil line, on Skyline Drive.
The Nordic Star is already being used for onboard classes while docked at OCC's School of Sailing and Seamanship in Newport Harbor.
The yacht will be the "floating classroom" for the majority of classes, and will also give student internship opportunities to maintain and operate it.
The new program has been using smaller boats, but the larger Nordic Star is more like a small ship, so it's better as a floating classroom and to give students ship experience, said Brad Avery, director of OCC's marine programs.
"It's just tremendous," Avery said of the donation. "It's the real-world experience our students need to get jobs."
A new exit course is also being designed around the Nordic Star whose students will meet on the ship regularly for eight weeks, culminating in a week-long trip onboard.
The vocational program began at OCC only in the last two years. The college, though, has a long history of boating, offering primarily recreational classes to students and the public.
OCC has been the recipient of several boat donations, including vessels from Roy E. Disney, Dr. Laura Schlessinger and the Steele Foundation.